Lesli Linka Glatter
Director Lesli Linka Glatter is behind the first two episodes of History’s Navy SEALs drama Six, which launches next month. She tells DQ more about the series, produced and distributed by A+E Studios, and how she pieced together one of her favourite scenes.
I’m pulled to certain kinds of themes. On Six, I was drawn to the fact that people are being put in extraordinary circumstances and are forced to deal with who they really are.
I’m very interested in the idea of what price you pay for serving your country. How do you balance a life of service with a personal life? That’s intriguing to me and it’s complicated, complex and multi-layered. It also takes some digging. Things are not what they appear. You have to dig deep to find out what’s going on.
We’re in the golden age of TV now. The amount of extraordinary storytelling going on in TV is really exciting and there’s been a real shift in television for directors. Now we have to make TV look like a feature film, but you only have a few days. On Homeland, for which I’m an executive producer/director, we shoot an episode in nine days. That’s a very challenging thing to do. With Six, we’re doing a military show and that’s also very challenging! You have to be very clear on what story you’re telling. You want to spend all your time on the dollar scenes, not the 25 cent scenes.
Whether you’re doing 12 episodes or eight episodes, like with Six, you want every one to be fantastic. We tried to set something up in the pilot showing that these men feel more in control when they’re in battle than they do at home. There’s a set of rules you follow in battle and you know your teammates have your back – whereas at home, you don’t have that same control.
Hopefully the material dictates what the director’s style will be. The material has to tell you what it is, rather than the director imposing something on top of it. I hope everything I do feels different. I wouldn’t compare Six with any other shows I’ve worked on like Twin Peaks, Homeland or Mad Men. They’ve all been completely different. That’s what excites me as a director. What interests me are stories about people and the choices they make.
On Six, we were exploring this idea that we’re used to seeing war footage from hand-held cameras. So we decided to do the opposite. Because the SEALs have a sense of control on a mission, we ended up shooting those scenes with a steadicam and dolly – and we used hand-held cameras for their home life, which is filled with unknowns and things there’s no way to control. We flipped it on its ear. That was something exciting to me and Bill Broyles, the writer.
It was amazing to work with our technical advisor Mitch Hall, a former SEAL who has worked on films such as Zero Dark Thirty. He’s an extraordinary guy. We had two other SEAL advisors who were there to ensure we were being true to what they do. It’s a story, not a documentary, but having them was really essential.
The first sequence we did with them was when the SEAL team was on a mission to take out a high-value target in a small village in Afghanistan. We went to the set and I asked Mitch what he would do if he had to enter the target’s building. He and the advisors walked me through it and it was extraordinary. I then shot the scene based on what they told me. The way the SEALs work is they get in and get out. They don’t want to be seen or heard; they don’t want to engage in a firefight. It’s very strategic and tactical. The movement is very balletic but, of course, they have guns. It was amazing for me to watch.
I just love being a storyteller. Even on the hard days, I’m grateful I do what I do.